18 January 2015

Pope Francis saddened by leaving Leyte early, thanked heroes of ‘Yolanda’
Pope Francis admitted cutting short his trip to Leyte on Saturday saddened him, but he made sure his visit to the province would be memorable, especially for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.

The pontiff was supposed to deliver a speech for the religious individuals he met at the Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration in the town of Palo but was instead reduced to issuing apologies as he had to leave early.

“I apologize to you all. I am sad about this, truly saddened, because I had something prepared especially for you. But let us leave everything in the hands of Our Lady because I have to go now,” the Pope said in his brief remarks.

Pope Francis was originally scheduled to depart Leyte at 5:00 p.m. but the pilots of the plane carrying him insisted that they leave at 1:00 p.m. instead as the weather in the province kept getting worse.

Leyte was placed under public storm warning signal no. 2 due to typhoon ‘Amang.’ Pope Francis, however, still managed to accomplish all his scheduled activities there regardless of the inclement weather.

The Holy See press, meanwhile, still released his undelivered speech for the public in which Pope Francis expressed his heartfelt gratitude to everyone who emerged as heroes in the aftermath of ‘Yolanda.’

He also prayed for those who suffered during those challenging times and asked the people to invoke God’s consolation and peace upon all those who still grieve.

Pope Francis, moreover, implored for the poor to be treated fairly and be given more opportunities for employment and education through just and inclusive political and economic policies.

“I ask all of you, and all responsible for the good of society, to renew your commitment to social justice and the betterment of the poor, both here and in the Philippines as a whole,” Pope Francis said. PND (hdc)

Pope Francis mourns death of woman who helped organize mass in Tacloban
Pope Francis expressed his sadness over the death of a 27 year-old woman who figured in a freak accident, as the mass he officiated was about to start in stormy Tacloban, Leyte last Saturday.

In his ‘Encounter with the Youth’ at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on Sunday, the pontiff began his homily by breaking the sad news to the young people present in the audience.

Pope Francis asked them to join him in offering prayers and a moment of silence for the victim, identified in news reports as Kristel Mae Padasas, as well as for her grieving parents.

Padasas hailed originally from Samar and was in Tacloban to help the church in organizing the papal mass. She died when a piece of the scaffolding was brushed by strong winds and accidentally fell on her.

“She worked for those Catholic relief services, a volunteer worker. I would like all of you, young like her, to pray for a moment in silence with me and then we pray to Mama, our lady, in heaven… Let us also pray for her parents. She was the only daughter,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis’ visit to Tacloban as part of his five-day state and apostolic journey in the Philippines was cut short due to the threat of tropical storm ‘Amang.’

He went there especially to meet the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 and bring them words of encouragement and inspiration from the Lord to help them recover from their harrowing experiences in the tragedy. PND (hdc)

Pope Francis calls on Filipinos to be ‘outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia’
Pope Francis called on Filipinos to be “outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia” during a mass attended by millions including President Benigno S. Aquino III at the Quirino Grandstand on Sunday.

In his homily, Pope Francis said the Philippines being “the foremost Catholic country in Asia” is “a special gift of God and a special blessing” as this country had shown solidarity and unity like brothers and sisters in times of calamities.

“Today, Saint Paul has told us that in Christ we have become God’s adopted children, brothers and sisters in Christ. This is who we are. This is our identity. We saw a beautiful expression of this when Filipinos rallied around our brothers and sisters affected by the typhoon,” the 78-year-old Jesuit Pope told at least seven millions of Catholics who endured the inclement weather during his much anticipated mass in Manila.

As the country celebrates the feast of Santo Niño, the well-loved pontiff said the Holy Child reminded Filipinos that everyone is God’s children who should protect every God’s creation especially the family.

“He created the world as a beautiful garden and asked us to care for it. But through sin, man has disfigured that natural beauty; through sin, man has also destroyed the unity and beauty of our human family, creating social structures which perpetuate poverty, ignorance and corruption,” he said.

He stressed that during these times that people are distracted by “ephemeral pleasures and superficial pastimes” such as gambling and drinking, people should remember in their hearts that they are children of God whose identity must be protected and should become the protector of the country.

“We too need to protect, guide and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage. Specifically, we need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected. And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets,” he said.

“Now, at the end of my visit to the Philippines, I commend you to him, to Jesus who came among us as a child. May he enable all the beloved people of this country to work together, protecting one another, beginning with your families and communities, in building a world of justice, integrity and peace,” he added.

The pontiff asked Filipinos to emulate the childlike image of Santo Niño who resisted all sins including dishonesty and corruption.

He prayed that Santo Niño continues to bless the Philippines and asked all Catholics to become witnesses and missionaries of the Gospel in Asia and the world.

He called on Filipinos to work together in building a world of justice, peace and integrity.

In the end of his homily, Pope Francis asked the millions of Filipinos who attended his mass to always pray for him.

In a press briefing, Director of the Holy See Office Father Federico Lombardi said the crowd was estimated around six to seven million. Philippines is the largest Catholic nation in Asia.

“This is the largest event of the history of the Pope,” the Italian priest said lauding the preparations done by organizers of the mass.

With the warm reception shown by Filipinos during the Pope Francis’ visit, Cardinal Antonio Tagle was asked regarding the possibility of the pontiff’s return to the country. Tagle could not say for certain but he noted that the Philippines will be holding the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in January next year in which the Pope will be invited.

Pope Francis is in the country for his five-day state and pastoral visit. He will return to Rome on Monday. PND (jb)

Pope Francis moved by little girl who asked: ‘Why does God let children suffer?
Pope Francis was humbly moved by a 12-year old girl who posed a question he could not answer during his ‘Encounter with the Youth’ event at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Sunday morning.

The pontiff spent almost half of his day at the UST, the oldest Catholic university that has deep-rooted ties with the Vatican, to meet young people and provide them some words of wisdom and inspiration.

One of the five youths that was given a rare opportunity to speak to the Pope was Glyzelle Palomar, a former street kid, who broke in tears while sharing her story to the Pope.

Palomar talked about the kind of suffering she and other kids like her was made to experience, like getting exposed to illegal drugs and prostitution at such a young age, prompting her to ask the Pope: “Why does God let children suffer?”

Pope Francis praised the intelligence in Palomar’s question, even though he admitted he had no answer for it, and this made him wonder why there was only a small representation of women in the audience.

“Women have much to tell us in today’s society. Sometimes we are too ‘machistas’ and we don’t allow room for the woman. But women can see things from a different angle from us, with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions we, men, are not able to understand,” the pontiff said in his native Spanish.

“Look out for this fact today: she, Glyzelle, is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. And she was not able to express it in words but, rather, in tears,” he added.

The Pope then asked in jest for more women, girls, to show up and be represented in future papal visits to Manila.

The wise man in Pope Francis though would not let such questions go totally unanswered. He said perhaps the appropriate reply could be found also in tears, which are devoid of what he referred to as “worldly compassion.”

“Only when we, too, can cry about the things just said are we able to come close to replying to that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask yourself and cry, then we can understand something.”

There is a worldly compassion, which is useless… a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor,” he said.

Pope Francis noted that if Jesus Christ had that kind of compassion, one’s idea of caring for the others would have stopped at just giving something to the needy, without even bothering to understand what the poor person is going through.

“It was only when Jesus was able to cry that He understood something in our lives. Dear young boys and girls, today’s world doesn’t know how to cry. [But the marginalized] people, those left to one side, are crying. Those who are discarded are crying. But we don’t understand much about these people in need. Certain realities of life we only see through eyes cleansed by our tears,” he said.

The Pope then implored the people not to forget the great example set by Palomar, to learn how to weep for the suffering of others, and to be courageous about it.

“If you don’t learn how to cry, you cannot be a good Christian. This is a challenge. When they posed this question to us—why children suffer, why this or that tragedy occurs in life—our response must be either silence or a word that is born of our tears. Be courageous, don’t be afraid to cry.” PND (hdc)